ASHLAND, Ohio - In a surreal setting, Genoa's quest for a Division III state softball championship ended a game short of the final in the wee hours of yesterday morning, and came at the hands of a diminutive freshman pitcher.
With 5-foot-3 right-hander Gabby Gillilan limiting the fourth-ranked Comets (27-2) to just three hits and allowing no runner beyond second base, unranked Bloom-Carroll (25-7) turned a single unearned run into a 1-0 victory in a state semifinal at Brookside Park in Ashland that did not begin until
12:57 a.m. and ended at 2:37 a.m.
The Boom-Carroll Bulldogs defeated unranked Warren Champion 2-0 in yesterday evening's D-III state championship game.
A crucial error in the third inning allowed the Bulldogs to score the game's only run off Genoa's junior pitching ace Shana Szypka, who closed with a 25-2 record this season.
With one out in the third, Maria Burchett, the ninth batter in the Bulldogs' batting order, reached on a bunt single and then stole second.
Burchett subsequently attempted to steal third with two outs, and was safe when Comet shortstop Kelly Traver was unable to handle the throw from catcher Kelsey Vincent, which trickled into left field. An error (charged to Vincent) enabled Burchett to come home ahead of left fielder Delaney Talmage's throw to the plate.
Traver was covering third on the steal because Comet third baseman Lydia Eckel was strategically positioned halfway up the third-base line guarding against a possible Bulldog bunt attempt.
"They did a good job of getting their runner over to third, the ball gets away a little bit, and there we go," Genoa coach Tom Kontak said. "But I'm hanging my hat on a group of ladies that have captured the imagination of a whole community. That's a really good team we just played and that's the razor-thin fine line between the win and the loss."
Szypka, who was superb this season with 352 strikeouts in 177 innings, allowed four hits and struck out nine Bulldog batters in the game. She avoided further damage in the fourth inning by striking out Bloom-Carroll's Krystin Bachman with two outs and Bulldog runners on second and third. Szypka's season strikeout total is the ninth best in Ohio history.
"Shana was typical Shana," Kontak said. "She was real effective with runners on base and was battling and competing."
But Szypka was outdueled by Gillilan (21-5), who yielded just three hits and fanned 12 Comet batters. Abbey Kontak lined a single to right-center with one out in the first inning off of Gillilan, and Eckel and Traver each reached on infield singles in the second.
Genoa's only other baserunner was leadoff hitter Christina Baker, who reached on an error by Bloom-Carroll second baseman Heather Armstrong in the third inning, and was hit by a Gillilan pitch in the fifth.
Genoa's biggest threat came when Eckel and Traver (on a bunt) singled in the second. But leading hitter Leslie Scheanwald (.529 average) popped out to shortstop Natalie Shirk, and Aerica Susor struck out to strand the runners.
Baker, who stole second in the third, was the only other Comet runner to get beyond first base in the loss which ended Genoa's 22-game winning streak.
"We had some opportunities early and, like all good pitchers, [Gillilan] was real effective with runners in scoring position," Kontak said. "That's the first time we've been shut out all year. But, 1-0 in the state semifinals, I couldn't be more proud of an awesome, great group of young ladies."
Rain pushed all of Friday's scheduled semifinals back, and Genoa's game was originally set for a 5:30 p.m. start. Warren Champion's 9-1 semifinal win over Brookville ended at 12:21 a.m.
"There wasn't any letdown," Kontak said of the late start. "They were as excited at 1 a.m. as they would have been at 5:30 p.m. We won't make any excuses. [Bloom-Carroll] had the same schedule. It was exciting. Look at the stands at 1 in the morning. Our fans were absolutely fantastic."
Kontak took time after the game to thank nearly every Genoa fan as they filed out of the park. Adding insult to injury, the Genoa team bus was broken into during the game and many of the players' personal belongings were stolen. The bus returned the Genoa players to their hotel in nearby Wooster after 4 a.m.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6461.40.86865 -82.31535